It was the perfect storm of bad timing. My boyfriend had been sick for two weeks with chickenpox and couldn’t stand to be touched, and just as he got well, I plunged head first into a period of increased hot flushes and insomnia. I was irritable and fractious, barking instructions to “get off me” when his hand on my hip felt like a hot iron branding my skin.
Over breakfast after another sleepless night, I noticed the frown on my boyfriend’s face.
‘What’s the matter?’ I asked, exasperation making my voice sound thin and brittle. ‘Don’t you love me as much as you used to?’
He hesitated and the world as I knew it seemed to slip into a muted palette of brown and green. My stomach lurched into my throat.
‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘It’s as though you can’t stand me anymore. You don’t want to be near me, let alone have sex with me.’
A deep crevice appeared in the ground beneath my feet. I had always believed it would take some kind of apocalypse for my boyfriend to stop loving me. He had seen me at my worst — broken and crying for months after my husband died — and still stayed around. He had long ago convinced me he wasn’t easy to scare off.
But here we were, staring at each other across the table, discussing an ebb in my sexual desire that had the potential to destroy everything.
Because my failed marriage was soulless and sexless, I believed that the success of my current relationship was primarily because of my sexual confidence and insatiable appetite. I was loved and valued because I was, as they say, good in bed. Even in my worst moments of grief, I had clung to the intimacy and warmth of sex.
And now this skill had disappeared in a haze of hormonal chaos. My body was betraying me in the worst possible way and I saw no way to fix it.
My boyfriend saw the tears running down my face, and must have seen the horror in my eyes.
‘What do you mean you don’t love me as much as you used to?’ I asked, my voice raw with pain.
‘I didn’t mean it like that,’ he said. ‘Of course I don’t love you any less. But it’s hard for me when I feel rejected all the time.’
‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘I’ll try not to be so cranky.’
The shadow of this conversation hung between us for hours… okay days really. My boyfriend has said his love for me was fading. I began constructing a wall of distance, to protect me from the pain of breaking up I now felt was my certain future.
Thankfully my boyfriend won’t let me get away with shutting down for very long. Eventually we sat outside under a meteor shower and talked about who, what and where we were.
What I Learned By Almost Breaking Up
• I am more than a sexual being. If my boyfriend just wanted sex, he could have picked anyone. He loves me because I am smart, funny, fierce, crazy and honest, as well as being sexy.
• All things can be endured with kindness. It wasn’t my lack of sexual desire that upset my boyfriend, but my dismissive, unkind reaction to his advances.
• My boyfriend is always in an impossible situation – if he pursues me sexually all the time (because he tells me I turn him on), when I turn him down he feels as though he’s pestering me. If he leaves me alone, I imagine he doesn’t find me sexually attractive because I’m too old/fat/boring/familiar etc.
• Like a cleverly worded survey, I can manipulate the answers to any question through the words I use. My boyfriend says I sometimes put words in his mouth. By asking ‘do you love me less?’ when I meant ‘are we having a problem?’ I set myself up to hear the worst.
• Everyone has doubts at some point in a relationship. Being able to withstand doubt from your partner is a difficult but necessary skill.
• I should resist turning every molehill into a mountain. Encountering a problem, disagreement or misunderstanding isn’t reason enough to expect my boyfriend wants to break up.
• Everything seems worse when you’re sleep deprived.
• Do unto others as you would have them do unto you — without expectations, without an agenda, without the promise of an outcome. This is the secret to love.
I am happy to report that my boyfriend and I are still together, and after a few nights of uninterrupted sleep our sex life is back to normal. If we came close to splitting up, it wasn’t because of him, or my sexual performance, but because of the dysfunctional stories I wove in my head.
Perhaps my doubts are a little more present than they used to be, and because of that, perhaps I’m trying a little harder. And that’s never a bad thing.
Have you learned a valuable lesson from a horrible situation?
26 thoughts on “What I Learned From Almost Breaking Up”
Ouf! Glad you’re ok. I learned last week that I’m more inclined to have a poor outlook when hungry.
Oh yes, I’ve been known to get hangry too.
I tend to turn on myself and get depressed. Hangry is sucky too tho.
It’s amazing how easy it is to project our emotions onto others. It’s almost like the real-life version of a predictable movie plot; always predicated on misunderstandings and things left unsaid. I’m glad you had the opportunity for honest communication.
Thanks Shellie. I’m very lucky to have someone who I can talk these things out with.
I read your blog with a creeping sense of Deja vu, as I am undergoing menopause with hot flushes, mood swings, total lack of libido & self loathing for my ever enlarging mid section & beam end!
Unintentionally I suppose I too have been less than desirous of my husband & reading your similar experience has pulled me up short & made me think.
The trouble is my husband does not say a lot, he never has. Our son has Autism & we have both realised that my husband is also on the spectrum.
He has been accepting of my behaviour as he knows what my body is going through, I have at least explained how I feel & why I feel the way I do.
I still have lost my mojo though & even channing Tatum gyrating in front of me would not bring it back at the moment! – Has anyone found my mojo? last seen heading for the Haagen Dazs section…….
All I could think of was maybe take a moment to say ‘sorry if I’ve unintentionally hurt you or made you feel unwanted’ to your husband and then buy him his favourite food? Can’t hurt at least.
I am so glad you had the opportunity to learn that he loves you for more than sex. That is so important for you to internalize now.
I love how you guys were able to enlighten each other. <3
Thanks Christina – it’s certainly an adventure!
Phew! Now I can breathe! So glad things are OK with you and your guy. It never fails to amaze me how things that don’t exist in reality (our thoughts) can metamorphose it when we believe them.
Yes, our monkey minds love to interfere.
Yes, so much of a relationship’s survival depends on the stories we tell ourselves. Communication is everything.
We end up being our worst enemy sometimes.
I’m always looking for the like button on your blog.
I can relate to what you are saying here. I think that many relationships go through something like this at one point or another. I’m glad you got through it okay.
I went through something very similar last week. I really like your point about not going straight to the worst possible situation which is exactly what I did too. When you’ve been in a bad marriage, it can be hard to learn to navigate a good relationship. But worth it!
It’s always comforting to hear I’m not the only one. Thanks Katy x
I enjoy your writing so much, Katie. Every single piece is so honest and perfectly outlined. By telling your story, you’re telling every woman’s story.
Thank you Tara ♥
I REALLY needed this post right now, thanks so much for putting such great words together 🙂 Glad you made it with your bf!
Sending you love and light for whatever you’re going through x
I’ve learnt that when hubby is stressed out at work he can be going through the motions and not really feeling in the mood to be sociable or loving; yet as soon as a problem is resolved … yay, it’s a completely outlook ????????????
I think we’re all guilty of blowing things up in our mind and taking them further down the path than they need to go – especially when we know that they’re not as great as they could be. I leap to conclusions a lot more easily after my marriage nearly imploded – it’s like I’m anticipating the worst and trying to prepare for it – not healthy at all! I’m glad you talked it out and saved a really great relationship.
“Everything seems worse when you’re sleep deprived.” Truer words have rarely been spoken!
Glad it turned out fine but we do learn lessons from everything, don’t we? Hot flashes and insomnia? Nah, I wouldn’t have wanted to be touched either!
What a thoughtful and honest look at our vulnerability. This blog invites me in and makes me admire the struggle we all have in relationship. Thank you!
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